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WARM THE BODY, SPIRIT

Want to reel in a pack of rebellious campers? Build a campfire.

Kids are attracted to flames like ants to a bag of marshmallows. No night in the woods is complete without a ghost story told around some burning logs, so make a campfire part of your nightly routine.

But before you go lighting the woods on fire, remember that campfires are not allowed in all state and national parks and forests. Florida has had drought conditions for a decade or more, so the risk posed by forest fires is great. Check with the proper authorities before you strike a match.

If fires are allowed, most organized campgrounds (i.e., state parks) will have a fire ring or grill area. If a fire ring has been left by other campers, use it. If several fire rings are in the area, scatter the rocks and burned timbers (first make sure the timbers are dead) to discourage others from using them. One fire ring is enough.

If you are starting from scratch, pick an unoffensive spot. Near the ocean or a river, build your fire below the high water mark. If no fire ring is there, dig a small depression and clear away brush, twigs and other flammable objects. When you are finished with the campfire, cover the ashes with dirt.

In a heavily used area, you may have a hard time finding wood. That is why it is a good idea to bring your own. Where ample wood is available, take only dead, fallen material.

Most organized campgrounds have cut, dried wood for sale. Spend the money. It might help pay the salaries necessary to keep your favorite trail cleared.

Use hardwood if possible. It will burn longer and more evenly. For kindling, use wood shavings, twigs, Spanish moss or newspaper torn into strips.

Start with small sticks. Stack the wood in the form of a tepee or pyramid, with the larger material on the outer edge. Place your kindling in the middle. Make sure plenty of air is circulating. A good fire needs space to breathe.

Bring along a candle to use as a fire starter. It beats going through box after box of matches, though it's always a good idea to have waterproof matches, too.

Add bigger material as the fire gains strength, but avoid the temptation to add too much too soon. You'll smother the flame.

Keep the fire small. All you need is a gentle glow to warm the spirit. Bonfires went out with the Spanish Inquisition.

Before you turn in for the night, make sure your fire is out. If water is available, give the fire a good soaking. If you can't find water, use dirt. Never leave camp with a fire burning.

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